I don't even know how to write this. Where do I even start? I'm mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted...I'm sure that has something to do with my indecision as to how to write this. But, I'll try...
This weekend was both wonderful and extremely difficult at the same time. We headed out on our travels around 10am Thursday morning. We had packed lunch and snacks and literally only stopped for 2-3 potty breaks (quick stops...on the side of the road, ha) and a fuel-up, so we got to our stopping point for the night around 6pm. We had a great visit with friends (who are more like family, partly because our families really are joined through marriage) there in Matao, Sao Paulo on Thursday night and are so thankful to them for their hospitality to us.
We got up Friday morning and got all ready and headed out again on our way to Leme...the city the kids live in. We grabbed a quick lunch when we got there and then headed straight to the courthouse to meet with the social workers in charge of this case. We ended up meeting in the actual courtroom because of space issues (their offices were too small), which our kids loved...they kept saying, "ORDER IN THE COURT!" Haha. The social workers, Priscila and Rose, gave the kids some paper and markers and colored pencils and we gathered 4 chairs together in a circle and talked. We were asked many questions, we got to ask questions...it was a good visit. We were told that the kids were going to come to the courthouse to meet us instead of us go to the orphanage, so then after our little meeting, Rose went off to call the orphanage and tell them to get the kids ready and bring them over...Priscila took our kids one-by-one into her office to talk to them and ask them questions ('interview' them)/answer questions they might have. She was actually going to take the 2 little girls in at the same time, but they were very disappointed with that prospect, so she took them one at a time for their 'special meeting,' just like the older 2. :) Then she called me in to her office too and asked me all sorts of questions, including if we'd had surgery to take care of things so that we'd have no more babies. Haha. That one made me chuckle. It's a foreign world I tell you. I do love answering all sorts of questions though, so I welcomed them all...they were great questions.
By the time I got back out to the courtroom, the kids arrived a couple of minutes later.
Now I want to tell you a little about the kids. I've wanted to tell you before, but I just didn't feel like it was the right thing to do just yet. Now I feel like I can. These kids are: Kauan, a boy, age 9 (he'll be 10 in August), Samira, a girl, age 7 (less than a month older than Hadley), and Diego, a boy, age 4 (will be 5 in May, 2 days after my birthday). They are siblings and their mom was present in their lives, for the most part, in some capacity...but sadly, drugs have a very big hold on her and she has never been able to break free from that. Their grandmother, the mom's mother, was the one who was raising these kids...until she died from something heart-related last year. So very sad for those kids. They then had no family who could take care of them and were forced to enter the orphanage.
We were told that they were very calm, sweet children, good students, obedient. That they appeared to have been given a wonderful start in life with the grandmother's guidance...and this all proved to be true as we got to know them.
They came into the courtroom and we met them. The social workers, Priscila, Rose, and one other social worker at this point, brought more paper. We put some little tables together to make one big table and all sat down. They suggested we maybe draw with the kids, just sit and talk to them, etc. Then they kind of just watched. :) We started talking to them to get to know them, drawing a little, but the kids weren't really into it. Then Joel, who is excellent with creativity (thank God for a creative husband!), suddenly said, "Let's see who can make the best paper airplane and see whose can fly the farthest." Perfect. We needed an icebreaker.
So, everyone started making airplanes, the little girls with some help, and then they started flying paper airplanes all in the courtroom. "ORDER IN THE COURT!" Haha...kidding. It was great. Kauan's won every time...he was a master. Samira was a very shy little girl and was not into the plane thing...which was fine, I wasn't either. So I just sat there with her and asked her a few questions and asked her if she wanted to draw something. She wasn't into small talk...or drawing...just sweetly saying nothing. Priscila came over and traced her hand, then drew some fingernails on her hand while I drew "the only thing that I ever draw," I told her...a house with a tree and flowers and grass outside. :) Remember, Joel's the creative one. :) After the hand was done, I 'painted her fingernails' on her drawing and talked to her. Of course during this whole time the other kids were coming back and forth between the table to create more flying objects and back to test them out. I turned to do something else with another kiddo and looked back and Samira was coloring her drawn hand a beautiful color. When she got done, it was time to leave the courtroom. I showed her all the beautiful drawings that everyone else had made during our time there in the courtroom earlier and now, and told her that I was going to keep them. I asked her if she wanted to keep her hand drawing or if she wanted me to keep it...she said, "you keep" (in Portuguese, she said this in one word). :) Priscila smiled and said, "Well, progress...she spoke one word at least." :) It was cute. Of course I had told her that she didn't have to speak at all if she didn't want to...but, she was starting to get comfortable.
We went together to see where we were going to live for the next 2 days. Then we went together to see the orphanage where the kids live. We talked to the excellent staff there and made arrangements for coming and getting the kids on Saturday and Sunday and then when to take them back each day, etc. We took a little tour of the orphanage and by this time Samira was slipping her little hand in mine at every turn.
We said goodbye and 'see you tomorrow.' We left still praying for clear direction and clarity as to what to do.
The place where we were staying was just a little place where events can be held...birthday parties, etc. There is one room, one bathroom, a kitchen outside under a patio, and a pool...all very basic, but pretty cool. Friday night after going grocery shopping to stock up for the weekend, we went 'home' and took a late night swim, ate cereal for supper, and slept outside on the patio. We went to bed that night looking up at the stars, asking God for very clear direction and clarity as to what to do.
Saturday morning we went and got the kids. All of the kids immediately started swimming after they got there and swam all morning long. Joel and I just sat on the patio and pondered. We were both just caught up in our thoughts and talked some, but thought and prayed a lot too. We talked about all the things that would have to fall into place if we were to do this. Let me just give you an idea of just two of the questionings we had had leading up to this point:
1) The first thing was that the oldest was older than Grady (Grady just turned 8...Kauan is 9 1/2). We had always felt that it was wise to not accept someone that was older than Grady. Many who adopt do, and it works out just great, but we just felt that guideline was right for us. When I first told Grady about this possibility of these kids, on the very day that we got a call about them, he immediately said no...that he wanted to be the oldest. Which I totally and completely understood. We felt the same way. But, for some reason these kids, even though they had that very definite 'no' thing about them (the age), kept lingering in our hearts and minds. I asked Grady to just pray about it and told him that we were doing the same.
The next morning we had received a picture of them via email. I showed Grady the picture and told him these were the kids we had been asked about. He looked and thought and said very sweetly and thoughtfully, "I feel very sad for them. But, I just still want to be the oldest." We still felt the same way too. So I told Grady, "We know. And we understand. We feel that way too. But, just keep praying. Because sometimes what is important to us *is* important, but shouldn't be the most important. Maybe it's more important to give these kids a home and a family." I looked over and Grady had tears rolling down his face...not at the thought of giving up his 'oldest' status, but at the thought of these kids and them having a home/family being more important. Then tears started rolling down my face. He smiled and nudged me and said, "Would you stop?" Grady and I were both in the same boat...what was the right thing in this instance? What *was* the most important thing in this instance...because maybe God really did want Grady to stay the oldest in this family. We didn't know the right answer.
So, Joel and I just prayed that if this was something we were supposed to pursue, that God would change Grady's heart about that.
The next Friday, exactly a week after our original call about the kids, we went to meet with our social worker here. The call about the kids in Leme (Kauan, Samira, and Diego) was a call from the social worker in Leme, in another state. So, our social worker didn't know about this development and we just went to ask about all of our options...and ask, if we were considering someone who was 9 1/2 for heaven's sake, if there were kids available here that were older than 5 (our stated age limit), but younger than Grady. There were none...but there was a group of 4 the same age as the kids in Leme...except the oldest was a girl. We wondered if this would be better...then Grady could still be the oldest boy.
We came home and discussed it all with Grady. He said that it would be better, but that we really needed to go visit 'Group #1' (as he called them), "because they asked first." I asked him about the age thing and he said, "Well, I really want to meet him. If I like him, then maybe that wouldn't matter." By the time we were preparing to leave Anapolis a few days later to go meet them, he was actually calling Kauan 'his new brother' and told us when asked about the age thing, "Oh, I'm over that now." Definitely an answer to prayer and an indication that we should pursue it further.
2) Another big thing was the timing of it all. We have a trip planned to the states in June...family weddings, visiting friends and family, visiting supporters and working to raise our support, etc. We can't put this trip off if we are going to make it to the family weddings. Therefore, would it even be feasible to do all of this and still go to the states? We were presented with 2 options. One was starting the process, going to the states (without the kids of course), then coming back and finishing the process. I couldn't imagine going without the kids for many, many reasons, so we were thinking option 2. Option 2 is that we treat it as an international adoption timetable-wise...but it would involve moving to Leme, where the kids live, for 60 days at least. And even with this option, there is simply no guarantee it would be done in time to take the kids to the states with us. So, as you can see, this was not just a super straightforward endeavor, timing-wise. But, we were more than happy to do this if God opened all the doors for this to happen. And we hoped for clear guidance in this aspect as we took this trip to meet the kids.
There were many other questions in our hearts about it all...homeschool, how the kids would mesh together, the issue of language, etc. Again, we were hoping this trip would answer many of these questions and we also really did feel the peace to pursue, esp. after God answered that prayer about Grady and the age issue.
So...what did we find out? Did God provide a clear answer, and if so, what is it?
After a full, great day of playing, our kids and 'Group #1' really getting along great with zero problems, praying praying and more praying, on Saturday night we were in turmoil. We hadn't felt a total peace about a 'no,' we hadn't felt a total peace about a 'yes.' Joel left to take the kids back to the orphanage, our kids were watching a little movie on the computer in the little room, and I just got on the patio and cried out to God. Literally cried and sobbed and begged Him for an answer. By the time Joel got back from the orphanage, I had my answer.
It had rained all afternoon and become quite chilly...we got showers and put the kids down to sleep in the cozy room there. I got done in the room and went out to the table on the patio there with Joel. He was praying and reading His Bible. I sat down and ate. Then we prayed together, asking for God's will no matter what.
When Joel was gone, the answer that I received was layered. 1) I was to trust God with these kids no matter what. 2) I received the answer. 3) I had asked God to give Joel the same answer...and I felt like He assured me He would.
We prayed together and Joel said through tears what he felt like the answer was...a no. I, having no tears left, just nodded my head. We prayed together again, many tears returning to me at this point, and I exhaustedly went straight to bed.
The next day was brutal for me. Have you ever broken off a relationship with someone, or been 'broken up' with, and you know it's the right thing, but your heart is broken into millions of pieces regardless of the 'rightness' of it? The thing that hurts the most is not knowing why. You know it's the right thing, even though you can't see the big picture and everything seems perfect from what you can see...so why? Not only that, but you are not the only one it hurts...it hurts others too.
In those times you have to just trust...know that God can see the big picture of everything in all time to come. Know that He loves those kids more than anyone here on earth ever could and that He is bringing about the right things for them in His timing.
There was NOTHING about these kids that scared us off or said 'no' to us...nothing. They were perfect! There was nothing about the circumstances that scared us off or said 'no' to us...not the age thing, not the timing thing, not even the moving thing...nothing.
There was only one thing. Peace. A very sad peace and a very difficult peace to accept. But, a peace. And that peace came with the answer 'no.'
Now, could it be that that 'no' is only for now and not for forever? Could it be that it's a 'no' in the way we were going about it or the timing of it all right now and maybe, in the future at some point, it could be a 'yes?' You can count on it that if we get peace with a 'yes' at any point, we will be back down there getting those sweet kids. Anything is possible with our God. Believe me, I have not forgotten those kids. But, Who has those kids on His mind even more than I do is God. And I trust Him.
We told our kids what God had given to us as His answer on Sunday morning. Grady later asked, "Did you hear Him in a vision?" I love their curiosity and the conversations we have. We had a GREAT day with Kauan, Samira, and Diego. It seriously was absolutely perfect. The sun had returned and we swam and played all day long. They are so similar to us in the way they act...their grandmother did an amazing job, esp. considering the other factors she had going on around her. They are such a tight sibling group and are so sweet to each other, looking out for each other and helping each other. Our kids meshed perfectly...it couldn't have gone better.
We went ahead and told Kauan, Samira, and Diego before lunch what we felt like our answer had been. It was horrible. Not the way it went...it went fine. But, how is that ever ok? Really. We just told them that we had come to meet them, to see what God wanted to say about them to us, that we had prayed for clarity as to what the very best for them would be, and that even though we didn't always understand everything, we trust God that He knows what's best. We assured them that it was nothing that we or they said or did or anything...that they were perfect, beautiful people and the weekend was perfect. But, that that was the answer we got. And that we were praying for them.
And that's just the best you can do in that conversation...I could not hold back the tears at the end. It's a horrible conversation to have. But, we trust God with the rest.
They 'seemed' to take it well. The 2 little ones were playing with Leapsters and cell phones during the conversation actually. :) They never looked up. Kauan was sweet as ever and was 'fine.' After that I could tell he was pondering it all though...he was quiet for a bit, 'in his own head'...but, shortly he started playing normally again. I'm praying so hard for them right now...these days can't be super easy on them.
I'm honestly also praying that this isn't the last I hear from them. Whether it becomes the 'right timing' for us with them or whether they get placed in a loving, sweet other perfect-for-them family soon, I'm just praying for whatever it is that God's seeing as the big picture to come about quickly.
I cried all. day. long yesterday. I just couldn't stop. It would just hit me all of a sudden. I haven't had anything affect me like this in a long time...it's been exactly 16 years actually. But this time it's not necessarily my heart, or just my heart, that I'm mourning over. I'm thinking of those kids and the hopes they had on Friday, and the hopes, or lack of, they were left with just two days later and how that is affecting them. We wanted to even meet them 'incognito' for this very reason, but we were told that was not possible.
It comes back to God's very clear first answer to me on Saturday night. "You can trust Me with these kids." So I do. I cry and I pray...and I trust with everything I have.
What was the purpose of all of this then, if not to make those kids a part of our family? Well, personally, of course things like this bring you to your knees even more than you normally are...closer to God and closer to your spouse, etc. We also feel pretty sure that we probably won't pursue any other children older than Grady, so that's a clarity that came with this...not that that had anything to do with the 'no' answer for this group, but it does just complicate an already complicated process and we feel pretty solid in our specified ages that we put on our profile (we'll see though...anything is possible in the future). It was a great process to go through with our kids, learning how to let go of certain expectations (Grady and the age thing), etc. So...but that's all about us. What about those sweet kids? Why put them through this? Sigh. I don't know. That's part of the agony of it all. Of course there are the things like they got to have a fun two days with some fun new friends (who they may or may not ever see or hear from again in their reality, because it might not even be allowed that we be able to keep in contact with them through letters, etc.). And, that's about all I can think of, naturally speaking. I pray that God, in all His sweet mercy and providence, is taking care of all that. *I can trust Him with those kids.* Of course you know that logically, but God said that very clearly to me personally, so that's what I'm going to do.
Thank you so very much for the prayers and thoughts and love. We so so so appreciate it. We have the best friends ever and we are so very grateful for you all.
Please keep these sweet, wonderful kids in your prayers. God is not done with them. And who knows...maybe we'll be a part of God's plan for them in some way after all (I hope). But, either way, He's not done. Pray for them and their sweet little hearts. Thank you.
Do you want to see pictures of this weekend and those fabulous three kids with our fabulous four kids? Good. :)
"ORDER IN THE COURT!!" Haha...this picture makes me laugh. The courtroom. Our 'circle' is there behind Joel and the kids were coloring/reading in the jury section there on the right. When the kids came in to meet us, they walked right in that door in the back of the room there. :) It was such a cute sight.
This was the circle of chairs we were in with the social workers.
After we met with the social workers in our little circle, I looked through the drawings that the kids had brought to me. This was one from Hadley. "I love you so so so much. I am praying for the path that God had led us into. I hope God makes it very clear to you and Daddy. I love you too, Daddy. I hope God lets us have a good trip. Right now I can't believe that we are in court." That last part made me chuckle. That other stuff made me so grateful.
Picture of all the kids right after we met them. Soooo cute!
I've decided if we do ever have 7 kids and have to live within walls like this, a pool is a must. This was so fun.
Kauan taught Grady how to play pool. There was lots of this this weekend...pool and pool...swimming and billiards. Fun.
Lunch on Saturday.
The 7 year olds doing some dishes together.
The start of Day 2...in the sunscreen line. ;)
You can't tell really well because of the darkness, but Kauan was making everyone laugh.
Look at Diego in the background cracking up. Hahaha.
I love these shots...
O.K., now jump!
Haha...Kauan and Samira headed straight for the rafts.
Then lots and lots of playing ensued.
Samira really got brave in the water by the second day...going under the water in the shallow end, etc. I even got to teach her how to swim a little. :)
These two were so cute together.
Hadley and Diego.
Grady and Kauan shooting the breeze. Little sidenote: Eissa started swimming, all on her own, while we were there this weekend. So, congratulations to Eissa on that accomplishment.
I just thought these other ones were cute too. :)
They got the dolphin up and working. :)
Kauan told Grady to come get in the picture because it was them two that worked on it and came up with the idea together.
Sitting together again over popsicles.
Diego getting some help from Eissa who is 7 months older than him.
Grady helping Kauan out with a game.
A sweet little feminine girl.
Kauan is such a great big brother, very protective and helpful with his little sister and brother...very! Samira is just a sweet cute little girl, but also definitely watches out for her little brother, being sure to tell him when he's doing something wrong and also telling him how cute he is. :) And Diego...oh Diego. Haha...so fun. He's super cute...and completely mischievous. Hahaha. Loved it.
Kauan getting on to Diego for not smiling. Haha.
He cracks me up. Look at him cracking himself up about being a little squirt. Haha! Love.
Adorable. Such great kids!
Kauan and Grady.
Two nice-looking boys, right?
"O.K., now don't smile."
I got this good one without smiles, sort of. The rest I took just to play with them. :)
Don't smile, don't smile, don't smile.
Oh forget it...the smile is coming. :) Haha.
Hadley wanted a picture with Samira...the two 7 year olds. I wish now that I'd thought to get a picture of the 3 little ones together after this picture, but I didn't think of it.
After these pictures, we gave them a couple little gifts that we'd gotten for them. Then after some hugs (including the strongest, longest hug ever from Kauan), they were on their way. :(